By Sachin Nakrani The Guardian
The plaque says it all. Quite literally. “Melhor Jogador Do Mundo” – “Best Player In The World”. A bold claim and one that would no doubt be disputed by backers of a certain Argentinian based in Barcelona. But in Funchal there is only one contender for the crown. The plaque makes that clear too: “Cristiano Ronaldo”.
All there in bronze underneath a 10ft bronze statue of the man himself in classic pose: arms stretched down by his side, legs spread, hair immaculately groomed. Peak Ronaldo? Not quite. That would be the building the statue is directly facing: Museu CR7.
That Ronaldo has his own museum in the city of his birth is not a surprise but what does raise an eyebrow upon visiting it, as I did on a sweltering August morning, is how easy it is to miss. From outside all you see is a single-storey building made up of an all-black frontage and a simple red-brick roof – hardly a sight that screams for your attention. But then you spot the statue, and the crowds gathered by it, and then, eventually, the giant “CR7” logos and it is a case of destination reached. Next up: entry, and everyone’s welcome. Even you, Lionel.
The museum is located at Praça do Mar, a square that stretches across the main port in Funchal, the capital of Madeira and where Ronaldo was born on 5 February 1985 (that’s on the plaque, too).
He is indisputably the most famous son of the city and of Madeira, an archipelago located 600 miles south of the Portuguese mainland that is inhabited by just over 267,000 people and draws thousands more in tourism each year, due, in part, to its fine wine and even finer weather. Many of those who visit Madeira, and Funchal in particular, make going to Museu CR7 a must, with those who have done so since July visiting the new, improved and larger version of the museum.
The original opened in December 2013 and was located in the nearby hills, on Rua Princesa D Amélia. It was the brainchild of Ronaldo’s older brother, Hugo, who after travelling to see his sibling at his villa in Madrid and noticing that his various trophies were scattered across the property, thought it would make sense to house them in one place.
There were over 140, so a decent-sized building would be required; fortunately the younger Ronaldo had one in Funchal that needed filling and so a museum in his honour was created.
And after the trophies kept on coming, it was decided a larger space was required. Hence the move to a site at Praça do Mar comprising of two stories and 1,400sq m of floor space shortly before Ronaldo was further enhancing his God-like status in Madeira by being a key part of Portugal’s Euro 2016-winning squad
Museu CR7 is part of an empire, located as it is besides Pestana CR7 Hotel, which also opened this summer and comes fitted with 48 rooms (the most basic of which are priced at €135-a-night), a CR7 suite (which will set you back €565-a-night) and a roof-top swimming pool that overlooks the harbour and towards the north Atlantic Ocean.
Among the palm trees and white pebbled streets, the cafes and the bars, this is Ronaldo’s territory. And there outside the entrance to the museum is the statue, built by the sculptor Ricardo Veloza, himself a native of Madeira.
And so to the museum itself. The first thing to say is that it’s reasonably cheap to visit – €5 per person, with free entry for under-10s. I expected tickets to be more expensive, and it came as a surprise that in this most brand-aware of venues there was not a ‘7’ involved in the pricing structure.
Perhaps that’s to come; an extra free ticket for every seven-year-old, or for people who arrive in groups of seven, or for anyone who simply shouts “seven!” as they walk inside and towards the staff behind the tills in their CR7 tops.
After buying a ticket it is a case of heading left and down the staircase, over which sit images of Ronaldo, most showing off that smile that says: “Look at me … marvellous aren’t I?” A short walk later and you find yourself in the main section, a white-walled, black-floored bunker filled with trophy cabinets.
They are all there, every trophy Ronaldo has won, collectively and individually, in a career spanning 24 years, from when he was a seven-year-old playing for his local team, Andorinha (for whom his late father, José Dinis Aveiro, was the kit man), to the 31-year-old talismanic forward for Real Madrid and Portugal.
There are over 160, the most recent being Uefa’s torso-shaped award for best player in Europe 2015–16, which was presented to Ronaldo prior to last week’s Champions League draw in Monaco.
Some are obscure – like the one for being the best player at an unnamed under-13s tournament – some are tacky – like the one shaped as a beer tap and awarded by Carslberg for a man-of-the-match display – but most, like his most recent, merely testify to Ronaldo’s talents and achievements: the three replica Ballon d’Ors that are lined across the middle of the floor, the four replica Golden Boots, the various replica Premier League and Champions League trophies and, as of last month, a replica of the Henri Delaunay Cup, the original version of which Ronaldo held aloft at the Stade de France on 10 July to mark his country’s greatest sporting achievement.
Alongside the cabinets (one of which is packed with footballs), there are also an array of shirts on show, some signed and some there to ram home the point that Ronaldo is very good at football, such as the Real top that has “Ronaldo 324 Histórico” emblazoned on the front to mark the moment last October when the 31-year-old scored his 324th goal for the club to overtake Raúl as their all-time top scorer.
Then there are the two life-size mannequins, both of which depict Ronaldo in his Portugal strip with those arms once again stretched and those legs once again spread. Each, like the statute outside, offer visitors a hard-to-resist photo opportunity (something I can testify to) and further point to the self-awareness of the man.
And speaking of Ronaldo’s ego, it also caught the attention that among the clips that form part of the touch-screen “interactive timeline” located by the far wall is one of the forward directing his teammates during the Euro 2016 final after he had to leave the pitch in the first-half with a knee injury (one Ronaldo has yet to fully recover from and ruled him out of Portugal’s 5-0 friendly victory over Gibraltar last week - their first match since winning the Euros – and the World Cup qualifier away to Switzerland on Tuesday).
Many saw his barking of orders from the touchline as a sign of disrespect towards the manager, Fernando Santos, but its inclusion in the video-telling of his career suggests Ronaldo thinks otherwise. It is a source of personal pride, a moment to be watched over and over again.
The range of Ronaldo photographs and paintings that adorn the walls of the museum, not to mention the cabinet filled with letters from adoring fans, further add to the sense Museu CR7 is essentially one large vanity project dedicated to a man who loves few things more than looking into a mirror.
But having visited it on a day when people of varying ages and nationalities were in attendance, wandering around and taking photos, what ultimately stood out were the trophies. The number and range of them serve as a reminder that for all his preening, Ronaldo should be recognised as a supremely talented and successful footballer.
Maybe not “Melhor Jogador Do Mundo” but undoubtedly worthy of being spoken of in those terms, in regards to this generation and those that have come before.
And nowhere more so than in Funchal. On the day I landed, the city had just been hit by wild fires that left at least three people dead and made over a thousand homeless.
Scorched roof tops and burnt tress were visible in the valleys above, from where smoke had also rapidly descended, forcing roads to shut and scores of people – residents and holiday makers – to be evacuated. It was an upsetting time and funds were required as part of the rescue and recovery operation. One of the first people to put his hand in his pocket and pledge long-term support was Ronaldo – the poor boy from the Santo Antonio district who grew up to be a global superstar.
“Cristiano has never forgotten about where he came from, this is why he built the museum here and why he has looked after the people affected by the fires,” says Cecilia, a Funchal native and receptionist at the hotel I was staying at. “He is a hero to the whole of Madeira, and to the whole of Portugal.”
LEAVE A COMMENT Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*
Man City exact revenge on Chelsea as United pay penalty
Delhi Capitals beat Rajasthan Royals to go top of IPL
Italian Balsamo ends Dutch reign in world road race
Norris takes first F1 pole as Hamilton hits the wall
Isner, Shapovalov win doubles as Team Europe lead 3-1
Inter’s draw with Atalanta allows Milan to stay stop
Calderano clinches WTT title to create history
Mangoustine triumphs in France
Al-Attiyah starts favourite at Cyprus Rally